Jail is a subject that you can only talk about with people who have been there. The rest of society has no idea of what it’s like. Maybe they watched Oz or The Wire or Americas Most Sod-Tastic Jail Rapes, but those shows only give you a glimpse of it.
That said, everybody who hasn’t been in jail already knows the same thing as everybody who spent time behind bars: Jail is not a place you want to be. Not ever.
By “Jail,” I mean any serious correctional facility from the local county establishment to the larger, State-run varieties all the way up to Heavy Medium (my worst experience, since that’s where they bounce the cons from Maximum when they run out of room). I have never caught a Federal charge, so I can’t speak to those places, but you hear stories.
Yeah, I know you’re probably thinking about how if a contract killer is after you and all that, how you can hide in jail. I’ll tell you right now that that is bullshit. Jail is a dangerous place at the best of times. Most people who haven’t been behind bars all think the same thing. You know what I mean. Sodomy and being a “Jane” and all that tired old stuff. Sure, it happens, as do beatings, getting stabbed. and all kinds of other heaped-up indignity. And sometimes those TV shows can do a good job of at least implying the sense of constant menace.
But there are a few things they can’t show. The first is the immense, continual boredom of Jail. The same faces, the same walls, the same stories, the same extremely restricted activity. No cellphones, no e-books, no games, no coffee shops or strolls through town. If you’re in lockdown it’s even worse, and that’s saying something.
The other thing is the total lack of privacy.
You want to take a crap by yourself? Not happening.
You can’t sleep when somebody’s watching you? Hello insomnia.
Look up in the corner. You see a camera there? Yes, you do.
Who is that walking by your cell door? Why it’s that rat bastard of a CO (Always call them COs, by the way–they are never called “guards” You might get a beat down if you call a CO a guard) who started working a few months ago. You know, the one who likes to come in and root through your meager belongings looking for contraband.
And what, you ask, is contraband?
Any goddamn thing he says is contraband. He can say “It’s not on your list” and take your portable radio, your copy of Walden, your spiral notebook.
Shit, just writing about this is making me glad I’m not there now. I have a few funny jail stories, but they don’t seem all that funny just now.